401. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • The German-Brazilian Deal: The New Approach in More Detail

While all the details have not yet been worked out (these would be submitted to you at a later date), the following general strategy has been approved by State, ACDA, and Gerry Smith for a new approach to the German-Brazilian deal:

—Acceptance of full scope safeguards by both Brazil and Argentina through implementation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

—Mutual deferral of reprocessing by both countries in the interest of each nation’s security vis-a-vis the other.

—Assistance to both nations at the front end of the fuel cycle (since enrichment is less of a proliferation risk than reprocessing), specifically:

transfer of German enrichment technology to Brazil,

heavy-water assistance (jointly by the US and Canada) to Argentina.

Our hope for the success of this approach rests on the belief that: (a) both Brazil and Argentina have a very strong interest in avoiding a bilateral race toward acquiring a weapons capability; and, (b) neither nation has fully thought through the implications of the path each is now embarked on, in these terms. If both can be brought (with the help of other affected regional powers such as Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico) to see the advantage each gains in mutual deferral of the weapons option, the plan may stand a reasonable chance of success.

One tactical consideration poses a major problem. During the last round of negotiations, the Brazilians made abundantly clear that they

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deeply resented the fact that we had first approached the Germans.2 They feel that if any deal is to be made it must be struck with them and not imposed upon them by the Northern powers. They feel that by going to the Germans first, we relegate them to second class status.3 On the other hand, we owe the Germans the consideration due a close ally—particularly where major economic interests may be at stake.

I therefore recommend (with the concurrence of Smith and State), that you simply make clear to Schmidt that we are still working on devising some mutually acceptable solution to this problem, that we have some new ideas, and that Smith will be coming to Bonn to discuss them.

If you approve this strategy, your points to Schmidt would simply be:

—We are deeply concerned about recent events in Argentina, which point strongly to a regional race towards acquiring nuclear weapons capability.4

—We (Germany and the US) share a heavy responsibility to do everything possible to avoid such a development.

—This is too important an issue for the US to ignore, but at the same time, we are determined that it not sour our relations with the FRG.

—We are developing some new ideas—which protect Germany’s economic interests. When they are fully developed, Gerry Smith will be coming to Bonn to discuss them with you.

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______ General strategy:5

______ Tactics with Schmidt:6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 24, German Federal Republic, 1–3/77. Secret. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. The Carter administration scheduled a meeting between Christopher and a FRG Delegation headed by Ambassador Peter Hermes to discuss the nuclear issue on February 10 and 11. Christopher arranged to “personally brief” Ambassador Pinheiro about the meeting. (Memorandum from Tuchman to Brzezinski and Aaron, February 10; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 2, Brazil, 1–2/77) During his meetings with Hermes, Christopher said that the Carter administration believed that “it is urgent that we halt the transfer of sensitive technologies leading to acquisition of weapons usable material.” Hermes replied that “proliferation is best met by development of adequate safeguards, not by refusal to supply sensitive technologies, control of which in any event is uncertain given relatively wide knowledge of basic elements of sensitive technologies in question (particularly reprocessing).” The Federal Republic of Germany, Hermes stressed, was “obligated by its agreement with Brazil” to supply such materials. (Telegram 32301 to Bonn and Paris, February 12; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 24, German Federal Republic, 1–3/77) Vance briefed Carter on Christopher’s discussion with Hermes on February 11. (Memorandum from Vance to Carter, February 11; ibid.)
  3. The CIA reported that “Brazil sees US efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology as a deliberate attempt to impede the country’s economic and technological development” while its military leaders “firmly believe that a sine qua non of great power status is the ability to explode a nuclear device.” Predicting a coming decline in U.S. influence in Brazil, the CIA suggested that Brazil was now “willing to take economic risks in its relations with the US on the nuclear issue.” (Intelligence Memorandum RP–M–77–10022, February 11; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 2, Brazil, 1–2/77)
  4. Carter drew a check mark in the right-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  5. Carter checked the “Approve” option.
  6. Carter checked the “Approve” option.